Drinking Vinegars! Shrubs, Oxymels and Switchel
Drinking vinegars are the basis for several old fashioned but delicious drinks, Shrubs, Switchels and Oxymels. Based on the ancient Persian word Shabbat, these herb and fruit vinegars, are the basis for contemporary nonalcoholic drinks with purported health benefits or they can be used to enhance alcoholic drinks with exotic and unique flavors.
Shrubs are usually a combination of fruit and vinegar with or without sweetener. Oxymels consist of raw apple cider vinegar, herbs and raw honey, and Switchels are Apple cider vinegar, herbs and a sweetener of choice like sugar, honey, maple syrup or sugar free sweeteners. These drinks are often used interchangeably in making cocktails and beverages for health and delight.
Herbs are often steeped in vinegar to access the minerals locked in the plant. One of my favorite herbal vinegars is dandelion root in apple cider vinegar. I drink this as a switchel, adding a tablespoon of dandelion vinegar sweetened with liquid sucralose to about 16 oz of water and sipping it throughout the day. I do this to get the minerals held in the dandelion root into my diet. It is a delicious way to get my magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Herbal Vinegar as the basis for drinks
Herbal vinegars are the foundation of shrubs, switchels and oxymels. Making herbal or fruit vinegars is a very easy DIY task and can be done at home with common ingredients, transforming them into intriguing and delicious concoctions.
Herbal vinegars make unique gifts in the holiday season.
How to Make Herbal Vinegars
You will need:
Glass jars with plastic lids. Mason jars are most often used.
Labels. I use masking tape and a sharpie.
Honey, sugar or sweetener of choice
For vinegar I most often use apple cider vinegar (ACV). I don’t use raw apple cider vinegar because the mother in it can often form around the plant material and grow unwanted bacteria causing the vinegar to spoil more quickly. I use pasturized ACV and my vinegars can last up to 2 years without spoilage.
I use lighter vinegars when working with delicate fruits and herbs such as strawberries, chives and other lighter herbs. Good vinegar choices for these flavorings are often White wine vinegar or champagne vinegar.
1) Clean and dry the jar and lid.
2) Cut fruit into small pieces and fill the jar.
If using fresh herbs, fill the jar full with the fresh plant. ‘
If using dried herbs, fill the jar 1/3 full with dried plant.
3) Pour vinegar over fruit/herb. Cap jar with plastic lid. Vinegar will corrode metal lids. If all you have is metal lids, place a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper on top under the lid.
5) Label jar with ingredients, solvent and date made.
6)Let this sit for 2 weeks then taste. Let sit for up to 6 weeks or until flavor is to your liking.
Decant fruit/herb vinegar into a clean jar. Compost plant material. Store vinegar in cool, dark place. Fruit vinegars will last 6 mo to a year. I have had vinegars made from dried plant material last up to 2 years.
To this vinegar base I will add honey or sugar for my family and liquid sucralose for me because I’m diabetic.
To drink these vinegars I add them to water, either still or carbonated for a refreshing beverage. Sometimes I will add them to alcoholic drinks to make interesting cocktails. Left unsweetened these vinegars can form the basis of vinagraiettes and salad dressings.
Examples of herbal and fruit vinegars
Fire cider is one of the most popular and well known of the herbal vinegars. Combining hot herbs, vitamin C rich fruits and other immune enhancing plants , Fire Cider has long been the vinegar of choice for those wanting to boost their immune function while enjoying a hot, spicy bracing herbal tonic. Fire cider often contains horseradish root, ginger root, onions, garlic, herbs like thyme or oregano, lemons, cayenne or other hot peppers and honey. Many folks swear that it helps prevent a cold from taking hold.
Fruit combinations like blueberries and lemon zest make a refreshing splash in a summer drink while Strawberry and balsamic vinegar is a classic dessert combination.
Herbs like dandelion, mugwort or burdock root make a mineral rich brew that can be used as salad dressings or drunk like fruit vinegars and Fire Cider to enhance the flavor of water or as a mineral rich addition to the diet.